User:Dominic/On edit warring
Edit wars and edit warriors
Edit warring is one of the most destructive actions you can take as an editor, on par with personal attacks. Most vandalism and spam is dealt with swiftly and uncontroversially, however edit warring strikes at the very principle that Wikipedia rests on: that normal people can write a good encyclopedia with a radically open and transparent system.
- 1 No mercy for repeat edit warriors
- 2 Misunderstood truths
- 3 Solutions
No mercy for repeat edit warriors
A collaborative enterprise rests on moderation, communication, and treating others with dignity regardless of their point of view. Edit warring is directly in opposition to those, and it pollutes the cooperative atmosphere that the collaborative project needs to thrive, spreading ill-will in the community and preventing the proper determination of consensus. Wikipedia's response is often inadequate, as there are several practices that administrators, particularly new ones, sometimes use in dealing with edit wars that are not ideal and should be rooted out. On the basis of several false premises that miss the point of our greater purpose here, many administrators approach the problem wrong. In general, protection has very little constructive use outside of preventing vandalism, spam, and equivalents, and administrators need to more situationally apply blocks of varying lengths.
Premise 1: Edit warring, not the arbitrary measure of three reverts on a single page in 24 hours, is the prohibited behavior. The clearer we make this point and ingrain it in the community, the better off we will be. The three-revert rule is a useful tool for measuring edit warring, but it does not require you to throw common sense out the window. Edit warring is unproductive, combative behavior that takes the form of excessive reverting. This could mean 4+ reverts on a page in a day, or three, or one per day for a protracted period of time, or one per page across many pages, or simply a pattern of isolated blind reverts as a first resort in response to disagreeable edits. Edit warring is not a specifically definable activity; it is any mindset that tolerates confrontational tactics to affect content disputes.
Need for discussion
Premise 2: A content revert is an intentional reversal of the changes made in good faith by another editor rather than improving upon the edit or working with the editor to resolve the dispute; it is not to be taken lightly. Complaints without honest participation in discussion are not contributions at all, merely obfuscation. Editors that continue to take such action lightly after proper education, warnings, and blocks on the matter degrade the community and the encyclopedia, and should not be accommodated.
Premise 3: Chronic protection is more harmful than blocking chronic edit warriors. Don't leave editors who are already unproductive and refusing polite communication and collaboration unblocked, while leaving the articles they have made a mess due to back-and-forth edit wars locked from constructive editing by the community at large.
Premise 4: All conflicts are interpersonal; no variance in point of view is the root cause of interpersonal conflict. If you think that the meeting of unresolvable points of view in an attempt to write a single reference work will inherently lead to conflict, you are cynical in the face of evidence: Wikipedia. This project, while imperfect and unfinished, has been a fabulous success because of the record of successful peaceful, collegial collaboration between ideological opponents. Rather, inability to comprehend Wikipedia's content principles, inability to communicate, inability to conform to common standards of decency, and inability to moderate behavior in the light of reasoned disagreement are all causes of conflict, between any editors. Remember that neutral point of view at its best requires that we engage in writing for the enemy; uncollaborative behavior is harmful to the entire community, and therefore the encyclopedia.
Edit warriors and the 3RR
Premise 5: An editor with a propensity for edit warring (i.e., continuing despite warnings or has been blocked before) does not belong in the typical three-revert rule enforcement mechanism. A day off of editing is, intentionally, a psychological blow, not a true solution. It is intended to indicate that the behavior is unacceptable, and to cool down the immediate conflict in the short term. The only editors such a block will be effective for are those who are unenculturated and can take a hint, or those who are actually of reasonable judgment but made a mistake. Mistakes are okay. In most cases, these are the best times to use protection, since there is a good chance that they can be encouraged to discuss.
Defining punitive and preventative
Premise 6: Repetitive short blocks are punitive; long term blocks for long terms problems are preventative. The (perhaps instinctive) dichotomy of long blocks as always being punitive and short blocks as preventative is based on fallacious logic. To be punitive is to seek to inflict mere punishment, and not practical advantage for the project: a short block that effects no long term benefit to the project because it should have already been clear to the blocking admin that the edit warrior was incorrigible only punishes the edit warrior, while providing no practical advantage, as the offender will return to the behavior when it expires. A long term block that resolves the problem of the offender's constant edit warring is a preventative measure for the encyclopedia, and should be encouraged when such a situation arises.
Identification and communication
Identify and communicate the problem. You are an administrator; make a judgment call and stick to it. If an editor is reverting without giving rationales, say so, lay out alternatives, like discussion and dispute resolution, and supply consequences for persistence of the problem. Persistent edit warriors should be ejected from the community without regret.
Limits to protection per dispute
Refuse to protect an article more than once in the same conflict. See Premise #3. If editors return to edit warring after an article is unprotected, the community has not forfeited the right to improve the article; rather, the editors have forfeited the right to edit. If an editor is unable to take the hint after a page is unprotected, there is no rational reason to assume they will take the hint if it is reprotected.
Talk page activity and unprotection
Unprotect any and all pages that have seen little or no discussion in a period of days. If the problem is that the parties refuse to engage in dialogue, protection is the wrong solution. If they insist on reverting but have not participated in discussion, block them. Wikipedia is not suited for everyone; we will only accommodate problem users insofar as it is constructive to do so.
Usefulness of repeat protections
Chronic protection enables edit warriors rather than reforming them. Protect articles to improve them, not to stop edit wars. Cycles of protections and unprotections in response to edit wars are unproductive (see Premise #3). Similarly, consistently responding to an editor's edit warring on multiple pages with protections does nothing to prevent the behavior.
Flexible 3RR interpretation
Mechanical blocks for technical 3RR violations enable edit warriors rather than reforming them. Take a common-sense approach. If an experienced editor who understands how collaborative editing works makes a mistake, a block is unlikely to do anything but alienate the editor, and is unproductive. By the same token, block after block for 3RR violations are not likely to change a persistent edit warrior, especially if the emphasis on avoidance of 3RR does not actually habituate an avoidance of hostile editing tactics, but only mandates numerical hoops to jump through. Block for edit warring, not 3RR. As mentioned in Premise #1, edit warring may be conducted in any number of ways which do not involve 3RR but do involve unconstructive editing.
Limits to applying short blocks
Remember that a short block is a psychological blow, not a final solution (Premise #5). Protection is not a solution to a behavior problem either. Applying repeated short blocks for unrelenting misconduct is nothing more than toleration. If it doesn't work, don't do it again. The only solution to an incorrigible behavior problem is a long-term block. Blocks escalate not primarily because that is the best way to change behavior, but because in the case that behavior does not change, it results in the most productive outcome: the unproductive editor being blocked from editing. Wikipedia is very accommodating to good faith editors: but it does not have the resources to provide anger management therapy; Wikipedia is more productive concentrating its efforts on editors that show a willingness to develop cluefulness.